Sunday, 17 May 2009

is this what leadership looks like?

7000 people?!

Yes indeed. That's the turnout organisers claim for yesterday's national March for Jobs in Birmingham. It can only be described as pathetic. And it's even worse that one of its leaders was the former head of the bosses' CBI, Digby Jones (pictured).

Unite is this country's biggest union. With two million members, you might expect it to be able to mobilise a mass demonstration in defence of our beleagured manufacturing industry. We desperately need action - on the streets and in the workplaces - to protect jobs. Yet the official leaders of the union movement continue to fail in giving a lead.

This surely illustrates the need to move beyond the limits of the union bureaucracy. We should continue to put pressure on the union leaders and demand they call strikes and protests, but more than ever it is clear that won't be enough.

Yesterday's dismal shower of a demo shows how urgent it is for us to build through the grassroots. A sharp orientation on rank and file organisation is necessary - only in this way can socialists and union militants hope to unite large numbers in a show of union strength.

This means left wing groups and union branches up and down the country taking the 13 June 'Fight for your right to work' conference very seriously indeed. Initiated by Visteon and Waterfords workers, fresh from inspiring occupations, this is an attempt to bring together all those who want a fightback for jobs. It holds out the hope of starting to build permanent networks of solidarity and struggle, co-ordinating the efforts of trade unionists, young unemployed workers and students.

Following this weekend's failure, the conference's discussions about creating a new militant mass campaign for the right to work - built from the bottom up, with no illusions in the bureaucrats - will take on a special importance.

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